Check Out Ethiopia’s First Comic Book Superhero: Jember

Creator Beserat Debebe helped to create a wonder-filled work of art featuring vivid illustrations of a young man named Amanuel.

Jember is a story about a recent college graduate searching for work in the bustling city of Addis Ababa. At the heart of this superhero comic, it represents the scariness of entering adulthood and feeling insecure about your own abilities. Security, self-worth and responsibility are all major themes in the comic.

“Amanuel’s story shows that a hero is not defined by where he/she comes from, or what he/she has accomplished, or his/her (super) abilities,” Debebe says, “Heroes are defined by the choices they make, their will and desire to do what is right, despite the difficulty of circumstances and irrespective of the recognition they might get.”

Etan Comics founder Debebe seeks to create innovative and entertaining African superheroes. Illustrators Stanley Obende, Brian Ibeh, Akanni Akonede, Waliu Edu and Rebecca Asah all assist in making Jember a diverse story despite it being set in Ethiopia.

Young Ethiopians consume so much Western media that the team at Etan Comics thought it would be idea to give an Ethiopian audience something that they can see themselves in.

“My hope is that through Jember and other future comics, our audiences can find role models they can relate to at a personal level. Due to the lack of representation in Western popular media, which is highly consumed by Ethiopians, young Ethiopians can often be consciously or subconsciously limited in what they aspire to be. I hope our work challenges them to expand their imagination.

I also hope that our comics allow people to reflect on the positive and negative aspects of our culture.” says Beserat. A character in Jember called Mesfin quotes Marcus Garvey “A people without the knowledge of their past history, [origin and culture] is like a tree without roots.”

Jember is meant to showcase African values that can equip young people with better decision-making skills and self-worth. It challenges the idea of success while humorously telling relatable stories.

Aman is not just a superhero; he is a man who has recently been dumped by his girlfriend and struggles with underemployment- both human problems.

Etan hopes that Jember will be a jumpstart to a greater appreciation for comics in Ethiopia and across Africa. Comic books are not currently a popular medium in Addis Ababa. Readership is low because of other entertainment like television and social media.

A declining reading culture is a trend globally since there are more alternatives to entertainment. However, the small comic book community is continuing to grow because of the appeal to vibrant visual art and short, thought-provoking narratives.

Debebe’s work interweaves African culture and mythology. The Kingdom of Punt is the setting for Jember’s expansive story. He explains his mission with Etan Comics:

“Our mission with Etan Comics is to entertain, empower, and educate our fans. We hope to entertain our audiences with fresh fantasy stories based on African history and mythology, and set in present-day African countries. We want to empower the current and future generation of Africans and challenge them to expand their imagination by showing them we strive to portray superheroes that rise from African cities and stand as the symbol for justice, peace, equality, hope and love for their community and the world. We aim to broaden our reader’s perspectives about Africa by depicting a narrative that encourages everyone to learn more about the continent’s rich history, culture, and innovative day to day life.”

You can get lost in the Jember’s immersive story here. Copies are available in both Amharic and English.

Featured Image via Etan Comics

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